Optimal swimming of a sheet

Thomas Montenegro-Johnson, Eric Lauga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
134 Downloads (Pure)


Propulsion at microscopic scales is often achieved through propagating traveling waves along hairlike organelles called flagella. Taylor's two-dimensional swimming sheet model is frequently used to provide insight into problems of flagellar propulsion. We derive numerically the large-amplitude wave form of the two-dimensional swimming sheet that yields optimum hydrodynamic efficiency: the ratio of the squared swimming speed to the rate-of-working of the sheet against the fluid. Using the boundary element method, we show that the optimal wave form is a front-back symmetric regularized cusp that is 25% more efficient than the optimal sine wave. This optimal two-dimensional shape is smooth, qualitatively different from the kinked form of Lighthill's optimal three-dimensional flagellum, not predicted by small-amplitude theory, and different from the smooth circular-arc-like shape of active elastic filaments.
Original languageEnglish
Article number060701
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2014


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